Health and Science

NYC Expands Vaccine Mandate to All Public Employees, Eliminates Test-Out Option

An MTA worker is seen wearing a mask on the subway after The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced a mandatory coronavirus vaccination or weekly test mandate for employees in New York City, New York, August 2, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

COVID-19 vaccines work, research shows. So do vaccine mandates. That's why New York City officials are expanding the requirement to all public employees -- with no test-out option, the mayor's office announced Wednesday.

Effective immediately, city employees will receive $500 in their paychecks if they get their first shot at a city-run vaccination site, according to the mayor's office.

The new rules affect more than 160,000 workers (including police, firefighters and correctional officers), 70% of whom already had at least one shot.

"There is no greater privilege than serving the people of New York City, and that privilege comes with a responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in making the announcement on Wednesday.

"We have led the way against COVID-19 -- from fighting for the right to vaccinate frontline workers, to providing nation-leading incentives to creating the Key to NYC mandate," the Democrat continued. "As we continue our recovery for all of us, city workers have been a daily inspiration. Now is the time for them to show their city the path out of this pandemic once and for all."

De Blasio said the city will begin impact bargaining with affected unions immediately.

Under an executive order signed by the mayor last month, NYPD officers must either be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test each week but the new order expected to become official later Wednesday means about 20,000 unvaccinated officers must get at least one dose by Oct. 29 or be placed on unpaid leave, officials said. The deadline is 5 p.m. that day.

The NYPD has about 34,500 uniformed personnel and about 17,700 people in non-uniformed support positions. It had a vaccination rate of 61% last month, but that number increased to 68% in less than two weeks, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

The mandate goes into effect on December 1 for uniformed members of the Department of Corrections.

The two commissioners who oversee the largest police and fire departments in the U.S. have already said earlier this month that they support the mandate for the members of their respective departments. Shea had even made impassioned pleas to officers in a video message, urging them to get inoculated.

The new mandate comes shortly after the city reached an 85% milestone of residents with at least one dose of the vaccine.

The five boroughs were the first to enact one of the nation's strictest vaccine mandates, a sweeping measure that requires shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or sports games, to boost the overall percentage of the population protected from COVID-19.

Mayor de Blasio continues to encourage those who have not gotten vaccinated to do so. At the rate the city is going, he says, there are only about one million adult New Yorkers left who are unvaccinated.

"At this point, there is only about one million adults left to be vaccinated and they keep coming in. The incentives the mandates, everything's working," de Blasio said.